Sunday, May 12, 2013

Skewered Tamarind Fish with Dried-Lime Butter and Chives

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been cooking from the new Malouf book, New Middle Eastern Food, of which I received a review copy. This is a beauty of a cookbook. You might say it’s a coffee table cookbook, but that doesn’t mean the recipes are very difficult or overly complicated. This latest book brings together the authors’ favorite dishes from all their earlier books with some updates and a few new things as well. Right away, you’ll notice the stunning photos and food styling. A simple Tabbouleh with Roasted Hazelnuts is presented in a pretty mound surrounded by the nuts, the Egyptian Eggs with Dukkah is shown with a coated, soft-boiled egg perched in a nest of very thinly sliced dried chile shreds, and on it goes with eye-catching photos throughout the book. The first dish I tried was the Crunchy Red Lentil Kofte with Fresh Mint made with bulgur and Turkish red pepper paste which caused me to fall hard for said pepper paste. I found it at Phoenicia, our neighborhood Middle Eastern market, and it’s not hot and spicy but it’s not sweet either. It just has a lovely pepper flavor, and I’ll be putting it in all kinds of things from now on. The kofte were served in little lettuce cups and topped with a lemon and olive oil dressing. I also made the Sis Kebabs with chicken instead of lamb, and the meat was marinated with lots of warm spices like cinnamon, allspice, paprika, nutmeg, and black pepper. The spiced, skewered chicken was delicious with Basil Tzatziki. Then, I discovered the wonder that is Preserved Lemon Guacamole. I’m usually particular about my guacamole and prefer it very simple, but I wanted to give this a try. It’s made with smashed avocado as usual, and diced tomato, chopped cilantro leaves, finely chopped hot green chile, a little lime juice, some minced garlic, finely chopped onion, and the finely chopped rind of half of a preserved lemon. It quickly became my new favorite thing. 

Since it didn’t seem right to make an entire meal out of the guacamole although I probably could have, I turned to the page with the Skewered Tamarind Fish with Dried-Lime Butter and Chives. Dried lime is an ingredient I’ve mentioned before, and I do enjoy any opportunity to use it. The limes are brown, a little shriveled, and completely dried. You can pierce them and drop them into a simmering soup or bash them into pieces and then grind the pieces in a spice grinder. The flavor is just as you’d expect: intensely of lime. Here, the dried lime was broken apart and simmered with water, lime juice, some sprigs of thyme, and I used white wine and a little vinegar rather than verjuice. The reduced liquid was strained so all the hard bits of dried lime were removed, and it was set aside. Meanwhile, chunks of fish, and I used black cod, were marinated in a mixture of tamarind paste dissolved in water, turmeric, and grated onion. After twenty minutes, the fish was skewered with bay leaves and quickly cooked for a couple of minutes per side. To make the sauce, some butter was added to the reduced and strained liquid. This was whisked to emulsify, and then slowly, more butter was added one cube at a time while whisking until incorporated. The sauce can be kept warm while the fish cooks and the salad is made. The salad was a tossed mix of long, thin slices of shaved cucumber, purple basil leaves, edible flower petals, and a lime juice and olive oil dressing. 

The rich butter sauce with bright lime was lovely with the flaky, white fish, and the fresh, crunchy salad was nice and light on the side. There are so many more things I want to try from this book like the flatbreads and crackers, and rice dishes and couscous, and the cute, little falafel made with favas and chickpeas. This book is definitely inspiring me to bring Middle Eastern flavors into my kitchen much more often. 

Skewered Tamarind Fish with Dried-Lime Butter and Chives 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from New Middle Eastern Food.

1.2 kg firm fish fillets, skin removed 
2 tablespoons tamarind paste 
50 ml hot water 
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 
120 ml olive oil 
1 onion, grated 
12 bay leaves 
rice , lemon wedges, fresh herbs, and Arabic flat bread to serve 

Dried-Lime Butter 
1 dried lime, cracked with a rolling pin 
100 ml water 
50 ml verjuice 
juice of 1/2 lime 
 3 sprigs thyme 
160 g unsalted butter, diced and chilled 
2 tablespoons finely snipped chives 

Shave Cucumber Salad 
2 Lebanese cucumbers 
1/2 cup black basil leaves 
1/3 cup tarragon sprigs 
edible flowers 
 juice of up to 1 lime 
60 ml extra-virgin olive 
oil sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Remove any stray bones from the fish, cut it into 24 large chunks, and transfer to a shallow dish. Whisk the tamarind paste with the hot water until dissolved, then whisk in the turmeric and oil. Stir in the grated onion and pour the mixture over the fish. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes. 

While the fish is marinating, make the dried-lime butter. Put the cracked dried lime into a small saucepan with the water, verjuice, lime juice and thyme and simmer vigorously over a high heat until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain, discard the solids, then return the liquid to the pan. Add half the chilled butter, then reduce the heat to very low and whisk vigorously until the mixture comes together as a creamy emulsion. Slowly drop in the remaining butter, whisking all the time, until it has all been incorporated. Remove from the heat and keep in a warm place until ready to use. 

To make the salad, use a vegetable peeler to shave the cucumber fl esh into long strips, being careful not to include any seeds. Discard the seedy core. Tip the shavings into a colander set on a plate and refrigerate for 10 minutes. 

When ready to cook, preheat a barbecue or griller to high. Thread the fish chunks onto six metal skewers, interspersing two bay leaves on each. Grill for 4–5 minutes, turning a few times to prevent them from burning, and brush with the marinade as they cook. 

To finish the salad, combine the shaved cucumber, herbs and flowers in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the lime juice and oil together and pour over the salad. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Pile the skewers onto a warm platter. Stir the chives into the dried-lime butter and spoon over the fish. 

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  1. So prettily preseneted and delightful! A magnificent dish.



  2. What a beautiful presentation. It sounds delicious!

  3. Both fish skewers and side salad are beautiful. Looks really lovely the way you present it.

  4. Wow... your presentation of the dish is gorgeous Lisa! The book sounds great too, I'm a big Malouf fan so I'll have to look out for it :) I've fallen in love with tamarind recently. It's got that perfect blend of acidity, richness and sweetness. Thanks for sharing the recipe! Gorgeous photography!

  5. I love the beautiful looking dish and the fresh ingredients :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  6. I love tamarind and I think it would go so well with skewered fish. The sourness would be wonderful xx

  7. I've not tried dried lime and your description will push to me to give it a try! I always enjoy your book reviews as you try a few recipes prior to reviewing. Much appreciated introduction to another great cookbook!

  8. What a gorgeous looking dish! Looks so professional!

  9. We are once more in the same frame of mind... just about to blog on a Persian recipe, and I bought a bag of dried limes after reading so much about it in the book.

    Beautiful post, Lisa... love everything about this recipe!

  10. Oh my Lisa, just reading about the recipes you've tried from Malouf's book had made me so hungry I'm going to need to go make myself some food. Maybe preserved lemon quacamole? Yum!

  11. i've most definitely made a meal out of guacamole before, no harm done. :)
    that butter is the shining star in this for me!

  12. The tamarind makes the fish extra appetizing for me!

  13. I saw this book recently and you're right, it's a real beauty! :D

  14. Adore the presentation!!! Looks beautiful!!!

  15. I love the sour taste of tamarind! I don't often combine it with fish, though - I wonder why not? This looks wonderful, and something I should try. Thanks so much.

  16. So pretty this dish Lisa...I never used tamarind paste, and from your description I know I will like. The cucumber salad with edible flowers is just awesome. Very elegant.
    Hope you are having a lovely week :)

  17. Hi Lisa- well after reading this post I want to make dried limes, I have 2 lime trees, a Mexican lime and a Persian lime, so I have more limes than I can use. I have to look into drying them.
    The book sounds fabulous and your photos of the dish are dreamy, something we would definitely enjoy.
    Thank you for the inspiration.


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